Two former South Korean presidential aides held
SEOUL: South Korean prosecutors arrested two former top presidential aides yesterday in a snowballing influencepeddling scandal which has seen tens of thousands of people take to the streets to demand President Park Geun-Hye resign.
Park’s approval ratings have hit a historic low of 5% – a record for a sitting president – over the scandal involving her close personal friend Choi Soon-Sil.
Choi has been arrested for fraud and also stands accused of meddling in state affairs – including government appointments and policy decisions – despite holding no official position.
Ahn Jong-beom, a former senior adviser to Park, was formally arrested early on Sunday on charges of abuse of power and attempted coercion, the Yonhap news agency reported.
He is suspected of helping Choi collect millions of dollars in donations from conglomerates to two dubious non-profit foundations which Choi set up and allegedly used for personal gain.
Ahn, who has been in custody since Wednesday after stepping down late last month, said he would “take responsibility for assisting the president badly”, Yonhap reported.
Prosecutors also arrested Jeong Ho- Seong, another former presidential aide, over allegations that he leaked classified information.
The 47-year-old Jeong, who was known as Park’s right hand man and has assisted her since 1998, is suspected of passing presidential speeches and official documents to Choi.
Park has been scrambling to restore trust in her administration amid the deepening crisis, reshuffling ministers and senior advisers to bring in figures from outside her ruling Saenuri Party.
In a televised address on Friday, Park agreed to be questioned by prosecutors, and sought to portray herself as an overtrusting friend who had let her guard down at a moment of weakness.
Her voice choking with emotion, Park said she had been living a “lonely life” as president and had turned to Choi for company and help.
The South Korean media has portrayed Choi, whose late father was a shadow religious leader of a cult-like group called the Church of Eternal life and an important mentor to Park, as a Rasputinlike figure who wielded an unhealthy influence over the president.
Park has been forced to deny that she fell for a religious cult. – AFP